Friday, November 19, 2010

Age(s) of Consent

Thank you all again for your thoughts on the title for my second Love Inspired Historical! My editor has decided, and the title is . . .

An Honorable Gentleman.

Yes, I can feel your confusion from here. She decided she didn’t like the term baronet overly much after all, so just about everything you and I proposed didn’t work for her. But I still think you should be rewarded for your efforts! So, I put the names of everyone who offered a suggestion in a hat and drew out Ettie's name! Ettie, please contact me via my website and let me know your postal address and whether you’d prefer La Petite Four now or The Irresistible Earl when I get the advanced reading copies.

And speaking of honorable gentlemen, one very close to me recently stopped being a teen by turning twenty. It’s hard to imagine how those years went by so fast! Here in Washington State he can’t drink alcohol yet, but he can vote, drive a car or motorcycle, enter the military, get his own apartment, work at a job and manage his own income, and get married if he wants. But for nineteenth century teens, things were a bit more complicated.

Here are a few of the important ages (and all are approximate):

--7 or 8: a boy might be sent to sea, starting his Naval career as a cabin boy and going on to become a sailor or officer (as we discussed when The Young Bluestockings Book Club read Bloody Jack).
--9 or 10: boys might be apprenticed to learn a trade
--10 or 12: aristocratic boys might be sent to boarding schools like Eton or Harrow
--12: girls from poorer families might be apprenticed to learn a trade (although they often weren’t dignified with the name apprentice)
--12: girls can marry with their parents’ permission (but note that very few actually married this early)
--16: aristocratic young men with ambitions for politics, law, or the Church might head off to Oxford and Cambridge
--16 to 18: aristocratic young ladies are introduced to Society
--21: a young lady or gentleman could marry without parents’ permission
~30: a woman is considered “on the shelf” (given up all hope of ever marrying). Note that some people put this age considerably lower (like 26 or even 20), but that real-life examples don’t seem to verify this.

What was more nebulous was when you might live on your own. If you lived in the same town as your parents, you often simply lived with them until you married, you died, or they died, whichever came first! If your vocation took you to another town (generally for boys but sometimes for girls), you might live with relatives or close family friends. While a young man of 20 might take bachelor lodgings, young ladies didn’t generally live alone until they were on the shelf. Even then, most lived with family because of financial concerns. An unmarried lady fortunate enough to be left well off still had a companion or family member living with her, because Society frowned on her living alone. And heaven forbid she do anything radical like managing her own income!

Never mind drinking, gambling, or driving your own carriage. For most of the nineteenth century, you could do that at any age, if you were a boy!

Hm, maybe I like the current century more than I thought! How about you?

No comments: